The Surveillance State

The Surveillance State is upon us.

The Surveillance State is upon us.

Government acts in my interest doesn’t it?

Our democratic governments are there for our benefit. They are meant to protect us, defend the state against enemies and ensure our way of life is preserved. Modern computer technologies, digital cameras and vast networks of other technologies are all involved in that process. On the surface it looks like the use of these technologies protect citizens from danger, criminals, terrorists, enemies, illegal aliens… A whole raft of frightening people and organisations threaten the state and the use of modern technology is one way to keep on top of the problem. Governments need these techno-tools to keep ahead, keep protecting citizens. But in the process governments have created what might be termed a “Surveillance State”.

Of course the “bad guys”, enemies of the state all know about the technology. They have got pretty good at using it too. Databases, surveillance equipment, telephones cameras, computers… they can all be used by either side. There is in fact a global bad-guy/good-guy arms race. Each side is working to develop the tools of the trade for both protection and surveillance as well as penetration, hacking and electronic attack.

It turns out, following the Snowden Revelations, that actually both sides are using the same tools. It is now clear that governments are engaged in covert operations of surveillance on a wide scale. A closer look into what Governments are doing behind the scenes shows that criminal style hacking is one of the tools that are being used. GCHQ, the UK equivalent of the NSA is one example.

The “Snowden Revelations” have shown this to be happening on a wider scale than previously known by the general population. In fact it seems that national security paranoia is so rife, that governments worldwide are carrying out routine surveillance on large sectors of their own population. They are doing the same on huge numbers of people in other nation-states too.

If everyone is doing it, what is a Surveillance State?

It’s a good question. Just what does the existence of the Surveillance State mean and is it harmful?

Protecting free citizens from harm is a good thing. We want to live our life in peace and prosperity. The freedoms that allow this are embedded in our laws. Those freedoms were rigorously protected and fought for by millions who lost their lives to defend them in world wars and smaller conflicts. Our right to be free is an established human right and one we would defend if it was threatened by invaders.

But what if, over a few short decades, these freedoms were eroded? Slowly, we have to do more paperwork before can do what we want. New laws prevent certain types of travel. Granting bodies prevent some types of research. Police and armed forces get more powers to prevent/control ‘potential’ offenders. There are thousands of ways our current freedom is lessened in the modern world. The problem is that our databases, widespread and connected networks and surveillance technologies all make these legal restrictions more effective.

Actually, they have a very small effect on the “bad guys”. They are pretty much going to do it anyway and have the technology to do it too. But, to make this small effect on the bad guys legal the government has to keep regulating to tighten the surveillance, increase the paranoia, watch more carefully.

The problem is that as the technology gets better, the freedoms get diminished. That is reinforced by the new laws needed to keep pace with the technology and stay legal. The bad guys are able to do the same things. But now the nation-state can use techniques to monitor everyone and justify it because of the bad-guys.

How does that affect me?

Today the Surveillance State is a growing but hidden entity. Most people, who have done nothing wrong, are largely unaffected by it. However, there is an irony here. As we have more technology to protect us we must submit to more and more surveillance to make it effective. There can only be irony in the thought that to protect our freedom we need to be under constant #surveillance. Free citizens have suddenly become the target of surveillance as well as the reason for it.

Most of our Western governments are relatively benign. But as the tensions grow and the surveillance state becomes more formalised in law this will easily change. Liberty dies at the hand of the twist in circumstances. The future of all our freedoms lie inside an edifice of surveillance equipment and computer technologies. These are well beyond the sight of the ordinary man in the street. But they are monitoring that ordinary person. They will also have the necessary data to control them when the state considers it necessary. Watch for those changes. The state may not always act for the benefit of the individual. You may be one of the people who it acts against when the time comes to take decisive action.

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One thought on “The Surveillance State

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